Stepping down, not up (part 2)

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Last week I published an article about me stepping down as Sanctus CEO

I had that feeling before I posted it, which I’ve learned to notice over the years. I was a bit nervous (but not too nervous) and when I did post it, I had to shut my laptop lid and run off for a bit. 

I genuinely didn’t care how many people read that post or if I got a single response at all, it was my story and I had to share it - it was truth, my truth and there’s no debating that. 

(GB and I did a part 2, chatting all this through.Truthfully I have no idea what I'm saying or whether it's valuable, it's just all pure and unfiltered and it's all coming out of my head and heart.)

Ironically though, people and the internet seem to have a way of sniffing out authenticity, so when I have written in that way before it has always had high engagement, so whilst I wasn’t posting for that reason, I did half expect it to land with people. 

What I didn’t expect was the extent to which my post about stepping down as Sanctus CEO would resonate with people. 

At the time of writing this it's had 1,000+ reactions, 75)+ comments and ~90,000+ views. 

Wow, ok, so it was a story worth telling. 

What has surprised me is the variation in responses and that people from all walks of life have related to my story. 

I expected that the niche Founder/Entrepreneur community would resonate and understand my struggle related to starting a business. 

Yet the truth is my story isn’t just about building a business. 

It’s about stepping off the hamster wheel. Ultimately, stepping down as Sanctus CEO, I did make a decision for the business, yet I also made a decision for my own health, physical and mental.

We have a society that values more, better and bigger and I just don’t subscribe to that. 

Part of the pain in this transition for me was the power of “should”

  • I should want to be a CEO
  • I should want to earn more money
  • I should want to run a business 
  • I should want to be a Leader
  • I should want to manage a team
  • I should want lots of responsibility. 
  • I should want to learn and develop more as a leader

These should’s were so powerful and I found them so hard to shake, even now they exist, they are there whispering in my ear. 

On top of the “what I should want” voices, I also had the “how I should be” voices.

  • I should be capable
  • I should be better than I am
  • I should be grateful for what I have
  • I should be happy for what I have
  • I should feel lucky

I had such a strong level of judgement on both what I should want and how I should feel in my current life situation. 

Much of this judgement is my own, especially the more personal judgement on how I should feel. I felt an incredible level of guilt for even feeling unhappy in such a privileged position, I was ashamed to even admit that I didn’t absolutely love my incredible life. 

On reflection, this really boiled down to not accepting that I deserve more, that I deserve enough - I was holding onto a deeply held belief that my life should be a struggle, that my life should be hard and that I am lucky to be here, in fact on some level, I don’t deserve to be here. 

Yet on the other hand I also really struggled to see another alternative. I had very little inspirations and few role models for another way of being. 

Still, all I know of success is climbing higher, doing more, making more money so I struggled to carve my own path and get off the hamster wheel. I felt like everyone around me is running a race and I just don’t wanna be in that race, so I just stopped running and even now I’ve stopped I look around me and most people are sprinting on and it feels like I have stopped while others are “getting ahead”

Where’s the role model for stopping? Where’s the role model for just being and being content? And not Tony Robbins or Eckhart Tolle who are Teachers or Gurus. That’s why the Johnny Wilkinson Podcast resonated so deeply whilst I was in it, someone who’s at their own pace, at a pace I aspire to be at, not just mindlessly running in a race they don’t want to win. 

In the end I was staying in a role for lack of a better alternative, which is not right at all, especially not a role so vital as CEO in a nascent business.

I’m not saying that as a society valuing being a CEO is wrong, it’s that I was in a race I didn’t want to be in and I sense many people are too and are tired of running. 

The irony is compounded with the context of being in a startup and founding your own business, because actually I was imprisoned in my own 4 walls, the walls I created and had the power to dismantle. 

Many people are trapped in jobs they don’t want to be in, relationships they don’t want to be in, sometimes because we have no other choice, yet often because we feel like we have no other choice. 

I was in part trapped by my situation, because there was genuinely a point when  my business needed me in that role, yet for the most part I was trapped by myself, by my own fear, my own perception of “success”, of “good” and what my life could be. 

I was afraid to stop running. I was afraid to get off the hamster wheel. Afraid at what I might feel, who I might see in the mirror when I stop for a second to look. 

I can tell you, initially it wasn’t pretty and I didn’t like what I felt because I felt tired, incredibly tired, bitter, angry, frustrated and sad. 

And I am still getting used to stopping. I don’t mean coming to a standstill, I mean stopping playing a game I don’t want to play, a race I don’t want to run. I’m getting to used to finding my place and finding my pace. 

I know many people relate to my story and I sense that what many people are avoiding is change, what it might be like to stop, to wait, to see what comes, because this is the scary bit. 

Here’s to stopping. Here’s to rest. Here’s to valuing our health, our happiness above all else. 

Here’s to something new, a new way of being, a new way of living. 

More conscious, considered, honest. 

I’ll tell you when I get there, or more realistically, I’ll tell you how I’m doing getting there. 

All I know is that up and more and bigger and better are not the only way to go, there's immense value in slowing down, finding our place and there's a value many of us are still not placing in prioritising our health and happiness.

I don't have all the answers, I do believe I'm learning to ask the right questions though and sharing this journey publicly is one way for me to process it all. 

James x